Synaesthesia Magazine Americana - Page 67

TO: Jake + Bill + Angie

SUBJECT: Code Red

Code Red, guys. I got the boat over from Hyannis today to see Mother and what I’ve found is a Code Red. Sam Starbuck’s away. He’s always helped Mother out and kept an eye on things from his side of the fence, hasn’t he? It turns out he’s gone on a cruise round the Caribbean. The man who’s never left Nantucket in seventy-five years thought it was time to see more sea. Well, good on him I guess, but I’m sure worried about Mother, especially with no one in shouting distance.

She came to the door and took one look at me – Stacey’s given me a bandana she’s dyed in cranberries and it keeps my head from burning in this heat – and Mother said “Hey Axl Rose”, which was reassuring, I know, that she’s still got the old wit. But then I put my bag down and sat with her on the sofa and she said “Hey Axl Rose” and then every time she looked up at me it was “Hey Axl Rose” until I took off the bandana and pretty much felt like weeping into it.

Salt. There’s salt on the floor. A sprinkling of salt through the whole house.

“Do you want me to sweep up?” I asked her.

“No, there’s no point,” she said. “It keeps coming off me. Or out of me.”

“What?”

“The salt. It’s coming out of my arms, crystalling on my skin.”

“Mother,” I said and I must’ve sort of choked a bit.

“It’s Nantucket air,” she said. “Just the time of year.”

She pushed up the sleeves on her cardigan and reached into her pocket and pulled out her shucking knife. She scraped at her arms with her shucking knife. You know how sharp she keeps that blade? She ran it along one arm and then switched hand and scraped the other arm, chipping off bits of salt. Then she stood up and brushed it all off her onto the rug.

My mouth dried so bad I thought my face was gonna break. I went to get some water but there’s something wrong with the pressure and it just dribbled from the faucet, so I fingered droplets to my lips.

She touched my back and said, “You get some rest. The steamer makes folks sleepy, I reckon.” Code Red, guys. Steamer. Code Red.

“Well I’ll have a little lie-down,” I said.

“All the better,” she said.

So here I am at my old desk, sending out an SOS to you guys.

But the keys are sticking and jamming on my keyboard.

I can see her in the screen. She’s at the doorway, scraping at her arms with her shucking knife, scattering the salt.

The keys are sticking. It’s growing and cracking between the letters on the keyboard. The salt. Code Red.

Code Red

Code Red